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Fort Delaware State Park celebrates the largest capital improvement in its history

Quinn Kirkpatrick
Delaware Public Media

Located on Pea Patch Island in the Delaware River near Delaware City, Fort Delaware housed over 12,000 Confederate prisoners during the Civil War and was manned briefly in WWI and II.

Since 1951, it has been a Delaware state park- serving as a historical site, and a nature preserve.

Park improvements in this project focused on accessibility. They include a resurfaced tram path for a smoother ride from the ferry, resurfaced trails, a screened-in pavilion, a reconstructed Heronry Overlook, and a new maintenance building.

Delaware State Park Director Ray Bivens says increasing accessibility is important in helping more guests visit, especially since Fort Delaware State Park offers a one-of-a-kind learning experience.

“There’s no better place to study climate change than a place like Pea Patch Island,” said Bivens. “That land that was once so intensively manned by humans, there was hardly a tree on the island. The population at one time was 4 times the size of Dover, just on the island. So the human impact, you can see it all right there.”

Nearly 80 years since it was used for war, the island now hosts nine different species of herons, egrets, and ibis’.

Quinn Kirkpatrick
Delaware Public Media
Gov. John Carney (center) joins Civil War reenactors and others to celebrate improvements at Fort Delaware

Gov. John Carney was particularly fascinated with the Fort’s history. He says preserving Delaware’s unique history through monetary investments is a priority in the state.

And the way history is presented at Fort Delaware, he adds, also makes it a great tourist attraction.

“You know we have a lot of visitors to Delaware, and people who come here to work. They want fun things to do, and this is an incredibly fun thing to do,” said Carney.

The park offers ghost tours, is one of the only historical parks to fire a Columbiad cannon, and has park staff dressed in Civil War-era clothing teaching guests what life was like during that time.

Funding for this improvement project came from the National Park Service, the Delaware Community Foundation, and the General Assembly.

The park’s season is April through September. It is open weekends only through June 11, and from Wednesday through Sunday starting June 14.

Quinn Kirkpatrick was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware, and graduated from the University of Delaware. She joined Delaware Public Media in June 2021.